Greek (Chinese) Mama

Last night was one of the (many) occasions where I wanted to kick myself for leaving my camera at home. I went over to my parents’ for dinner, as they just returned from an amazing and jealousy-inducing Mediterranean cruise vacation on Tuesday. Their cruise departed from Istanbul (not Constantinople) and eventually arrived in Athens, but stopped in Ephesus, Crete, Mykonos, Santorini, Phillipi, Rhodes, and I’m sure I’m forgetting another one. But basically any important historical place in Greece, they went to.

Apparently, my mom didn’t get enough Greek food while there, because when my brother and I went over last night, she was whipping up more Mediterranean cuisine! The spread was so pretty that I was super mad at myself for not bothering to bring my camera. Oh well, I guess it was good preparation for my Healthy Living Summit presentation on photography, eh? Do as I say, not as I do, friends. πŸ˜‰


First up was greek salad (which I chopped up) that included cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, olives, and was dressed with EVOO and salt & pepper.


There was also olive oil & balsamic to dip some delicious crusty bread in.

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Then grilled chicken with a spice rub and a Turkish stuffed bell pepper recipe my mom was trying out. They were stuffed with seasoned rice, pine nuts, olives, and spices! Behold, my plate:


Although I was too full to finish my stuffed pepper. I should always know better than to snack before one of my mom’s home-cooked dinners. Tsk, tsk, Gretchen!

Photo from my mom’s birthday dinner back in February

I definitely inherited my love of cooking from my mom. Somewhat hilariously, she actually didn’t know how to cook until she met my dad, at which point she started feverishly studying my Po-Po (Chinese term for maternal grandmother) so that she could learn! Her specialty is delicious, authentic Chinese food (duh!), but she loves to experiment with all kinds of cuisines. The biggest way in which we differ in our cooking styles is that my mom is very recipe-oriented. She likes to print out recipes when she’s looking for something new, whereas I like to look up recipes more for inspiration. I like to READ cookbooks, not COOK from them (which I know is very counter-intuitive but hey, I’m a rebel.) I’ve tried to learn some of my mom’s recipes, but it really is one of those things where it always tastes better when it comes from her!

My mom’s proclivity for following others’ recipes has always been funny to me, since she doesn’t have any of her OWN recipes written down! They’re locked in her mind like a steel trap, since she’s been making them for so long. So watching her make her amazing sweet & sour pork recipe for the first time went something like this:

“Okay, then you make the sauce. Put in two spoonfuls of this, then pour in some of that, then — oh wait! — whisk in a spoon of that first…”

My poor brain couldn’t quite keep up, and I *still* don’t know how to make it. Ah well, at least next time I know to bring a notepad and pen with me. πŸ™‚

What’s that one dish that mom (or dad) still, to this day, makes best?

PS: Head on over to Healthy Living Blogs today to check out my guest post on why having a “Top Posts” page rocks!

PPS: It’s my sister’s 30th birthday today!!! Also, to a lesser degree of excitement, it’s Sean’s and my 6-month. Kekeke.


  1. I just got back from Greece last week! Perhaps your mother and I crossed paths at some point.

    Matt and I went to Crete (Chania, Loutro, and Heraklion), Santorini, and Athens over 2 weeks. It was an awesome trip! The weather was ridiculously hot but there were very few crowds (probably because of the economic crisis).

    • Jealous of you too now!

      Yeah, my parents both commented that the heat was pretty miserable. On the islands they said it was okay because it was much breezier, but on the mainland it was horrrrrribly hot. My brother and his fiancee are planning a Greek cruise for their honeymoon now, too! Soon everyone I know will have been but me.

  2. Oh man.. my mom is the best cook πŸ™‚ Her Iranian dishes are TOP notch!!

  3. That salad looks AWESOME!!!

  4. Occulasays:

    “Po-Po (Chinese term for maternal grandmother)” …

    How awesome is it to have (if I understood correctly) a specific word for maternal grandmother (versus paternal grandmother)? Then you’d always have clarity who you were talking about! You know what else English needs? Differentiation between in-laws. You know how your sister-in-law can be either your brother’s wife OR your husband’s sister?

    Oh, language. I heart you almost as much as food. πŸ™‚

    • I was actually thinking about that exact example -well, with brother-in-law instead — the other day. My coworker was referring to her brother-in-law, but I was so confused because she isn’t married. And then I realized she must have been talking about her sister’s husband, and felt stupid. Hahahaha.

  5. My mom is an incredible cook. She makes like everything the best, haha!! My dad makes the best pancakes though! UGH I’M so jealous of your parents cruise! no fair!!

  6. Laurensays:

    Did your parents do an organized tour? We are looking into finding one that does Turkey and Greece for our honeymoon, so I’d love to know which one if so!

    Also…I need that pepper recipe!

    • Yeah, it was an itinerary that they chose via their cruise. They did one through a really expensive, smaller cruiseline (called Regency or something?) that caters to an older clientele, but my brother and his fiancee are looking into one of Celebrity’s cruises that does Greece and I think at least one stop in Turkey (Ephesus at the very least) for their own honeymoon in May 2013. You should check that out!

  7. My mom makes the best nian gao (small rice cakes) dishes of life!!! Everytime I go home I stuff myself until I can barely walk to the kitchen to do the dishes. So delicious!!!!

    Alos, I COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND Chinese recipes locked up in moms’ brains. I try to learn from my mom, but everytime I end up so confused and forget where I’m suppose to even start.

    I enjoyed your mom’s risotto. Yum, cheese and mushrooms! Your touch in the kitchen that day helped to reach that extra mile of tastiness.

  8. Ambersays:

    I’m going to show my southern roots and say my moms salmon patties. Oh yum! I tried making them once and almost barfed. Now I leave it to her. πŸ™‚

  9. I just caught up on your last… 2 weeks of posts? I didn’t read a single blog when I was in Colorado!! The food looks FAB.
    Miss you, dollface!

  10. Jen Robinsonsays:

    Thanks for the shout out pookie. Gotta love mom’s cooking- her egg/tomato dish, her fried egg sandwiches… and of course all the yummy meat dishes that I don’t eat anymore πŸ™‚

  11. robinsays:

    My Mom is a southern cook so it would have to be her chicken and dumplings and her banana puddin:)

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